Updated on December 10, 2021
In the spirit of “top 10” lists and the holiday season, here’s a list of my 10 favorite Christmas specials, listed in no particular order. Everything below is available on DVD or Netflix.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
One of the all-time classics, this one’s got lots of great moments: Sally’s Christmas wish list (“all I want is what I have coming to me, all I want is my fair share”); the jazz music soundtrack; the crudely-animated-but-classic dance number (I liked Freida’s waving her arms back and forth, plus Shermy’s Frankenstein dance and Linus and Sally’s “two-step”).
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
The classic 1964 stop-motion animated special was Rankin-Bass’ first big holiday hit, and its most famous one at that. My favorite part: the “Island of Misfit Toys” and its accompanying song.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The 1966 Chuck Jones-animated holiday special is another classic, and much superior to that live-action movie with Jim Carrey. My favorite part: the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” (and seeing the Grinch steal everything including the Whos’ ice cubes and light bulbs).
Frosty the Snowman
This 1969 Rankin-Bass animated special is done as hand-drawn animation, though Frosty got a stop-motion look in the late 70s “Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July” movie. My favorite part: the cop’s reaction to Frosty coming to life; the train station ticket-seller (“that’ll be $3,000 and 4 cents, including tax”); as usual for Rankin-Bass, the songs.
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
1970’s Rankin-Bass effort reflects the rebellious nature of its time, with the story focusing on telling the life story of a young Kris Kringle fighting “the power”—the “power” in this case the despotic ruler of Sombertown, Burgermeister Meisterburger. Elements of this special were also drawn from the L. Frank Baum book “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus,” of which Rankin-Bass would later produce a direct adaption.
A Garfield Christmas
See my previous post on “A Garfield Christmas.”
The Year Without a Santa Claus
This classic 70s Rankin-Bass special (yes, said studio turns up a lot in this list) is noted for two things: a focus on Mrs. Claus; and the two weather-related demigods, Snow Miser and Heat Miser. The most famous portions of this special (and my favorite part) are the song numbers for Snow Miser and Heat Miser, who ended up stealing the show… and led to the Miser Brothers getting their own animated special decades later in the 2000s. There was also a live-action made-for-TV movie version produced, also during the 2000s.
Yogi’s First Christmas
See my previous post on “Yogi’s First Christmas.”
Powerpuff Girls: Twas the Fight Before Christmas
See my previous post on “The Fight Before Christmas.”
Dexter’s Laboratory: Dexter vs. Santa’s Claws
See my previous post on “Dexter vs. Santa’s Claws.”
- The Night Before Christmas
- Bugs Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales
- The Flintstones:
- Bah, Humduck: yet another “A Christmas Carol” variant, this one puts Daffy Duck in the role of Scrooge, as the owner of a Wal-Mart-like department store chain and Porky as Cratchit. Pretty funny, particularly the portions involving the ghosts themselves: Yosemite Sam (as the Ghost of Christmas Present) pre-emptively smacks Daffy just for being so “low-down”; Granny (as the Ghost of Christmas Past) smacks Daffy and yells “try again!” after he fails to learn the right lesson from their time-trip to the past. Bugs also gets some decent lines too (to Daffy, after seeing the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is due soon: “Well, that’s my cue to leave. Good luck in the afterworld!”). And Daffy, of course, is Daffy (his Chuck Jones “greedy little coward” variant)—his first reaction to seeing Sylvester (playing the “Jacob Marley’s ghost” role) is ask if “the rabbit” is trying to pull something.
- 6Teen: “Deck the Mall”
- Rocko’s Modern Christmas: I liked watching this one back in the 90s. Seeing Heifer selling Christmas trees was pretty funny.
- A Pinky and the Brain Christmas: A nice special featuring the lab mice attempting a Yuletide-themed world domination attempt. This one involves getting jobs as elves at Santa’s workshop at the North Pole.
- Animaniacs: “Twas the Day Before Christmas”: A funny variant on the classic story “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” The accompanying short “Toy Shop Terrors” is also amusing: the Warners run amok in an old-fashioned toy store, to the theme of “Powerhouse.”
- The Tick: The Tick Loves Santa”: Pretty funny episode, with lots of holiday-themed puns (“it’s a Yule tide!”). Funniest part: Die Fledermaus criticizing Tick for doing nothing during the “Multiple Santas” fight scene (when the Tick’s not able to tell which one’s the real Santa): “Here’s a clue: if he jumps and kicks you in the stomach, it’s probably not Santa!”
- Pac-Man: “Christmas Comes to Pac-Land”
- The Simpsons: “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”: The very first half-hour Simpsons episode is still an entertaining one. It also gives me one of my favorite Homer Simpson lines: (Marge, to Bart: “You are not getting a tattoo for Christmas.” Homer: “Yeah, if you want one, you’ll have to pay for it out of your own allowance.”)
- Mickey’s Christmas Carol: Disney’s classic characters take part in this “Christmas Carol” variant, with Ebenezer Scrooge played by Scrooge McDuck himself.
What’re your favorite Christmas specials?